Young women sail aboard the Queenship

By  Jenna Murphy, Youth Speak News
  • October 27, 2006
HALIFAX - When the doorbell rings on a rainy Saturday evening in mid-October, three enthusiastic young women, along with the smell of a homemade salmon casserole, welcomed me through the doors of the Queenship House. It’s a community for young Catholic lay women, currently home to Cristina Tersigni, 26, Jen MacDonald, 32, Ania Szymanska, 20, and Katherine McGee, 19.

As the ladies ushered me into the dining room where we plunked down onto a big comfy corner couch to chat, it felt much more like a visit with old friends  than an actual assignment.

“We try to practise hospitality and charity as a ministry,” said Tersigni, who serves as youth minister at St. Thomas Aquinas and Canadian Martyrs parishes in Halifax. “After Sunday Mass, we often invite others to come share a meal with us.”

Alice Fougere, 55, felt called to establish a community for young Catholic lay women upon returning from a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 2003. Fougere lives with the women in the house as their spiritual mother and mentor.

When it was first established, the house was consecrated to our Blessed Mother and adopted its mission: to offer a loving environment to Catholic women who are striving to grow in their faith. This mission statement echoes Fougere’s desire to provide a safe haven for young Catholic women to discern their vocation while being rooted in prayer and fellowship.

“The house was once described by my spiritual director as a ‛greenhouse’ for young women... a safe place for them to spiritually grow,” said Fougere.

Last year, because the Queenship House was expanding, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, arch, S.J., of Halifax suggested that the house relocate to St. Joseph’s Newman Centre, Dalhousie University’s Catholic chaplaincy and Catholic Christian Outreach Halifax headquarters. So they did.

The Newman Centre’s doors are literally always open to anyone who seeks Confession with Fr. Brian Christie, CC, the university chaplain, or wishes to spend some time in prayer in the beautiful sunlit chapel.

The Newman Centre offers daily Mass from Tuesday to Friday and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every morning. The house is always bursting with activity and the women admit that this took a bit of adjustment.

“There are always surprises, not one day is the same: though it seems crazy sometimes, there is such unity, we are so together on everything,” Szymanska said.

When the women are not entertaining guests, working in the community or attending classes or youth events, they are making a conscious effort to synchronize their schedules to pray together and to learn from what each has to offer the community.

“It’s really as if each individual is a small piece in a much larger puzzle,” said Szymanska.

Tersigni agrees. “Like the Body of Christ.”

The women said that fellowship is essential for spiritual growth. Each week they have a scheduled community night where they share a meal and set aside a time for prayer and conversation. The women share as many meals as possible together and they are responsible for rotating chores, although their schedules are tight.

“There are moments of chaos, it’s true, but when we pull together in prayer and make the effort, you can really feel the grace,” said MacDonald.

“Between the Queenship House and the men’s Frassati House (as featured in the Sept. 10 issue of The Catholic Register) there is such an obvious support system, you know that someone is always praying for you,” said Tersigni.

The ladies at the house all agree that praying together truly does keep them together.

“I don’t know how anyone does it without fellowship,” said Tersigni. “This is my family, this is my home.”

(Murphy, 22, studies biology at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B.)

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